Negron: Yes, It’s A Bronx Tale

Chazz Palminteri

If you ever saw the movie “A Bronx Tale,” the most prominent line in the film is when Sonny (Chazz Palminteri) says to “C,” the young boy that he is mentoring, how in life “there is nothing worse than wasted talent.”

When I saw the new commercial on the Yes network about the up and coming Yankee season, I was blown away. The ad features Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton and “Sir” Didi Gregorius and his double play partner Gleyber Torres. They also have Ken Singleton, Michael Kay, John Flaherty, David Cone and Paul O’Neill.

This commercial is very tactfully and tastefully put together. Just when you think you have seen it all, in pops the great Academy Award nominated actor Chazz Palminteri. Chazz just gives the commercial that true Hollywood feeling. Charlie Santoro, a sales specialist at YES and a part time actor who plays Chazz’s assistant barber in the commercial, said that having Chazz in this role made every one bring their “A game” to the set.

I was told that Chazz was very generous in helping all the people on this job.

When I spoke to Chazz about doing this commercial he responded by saying that it was truly a lot of fun. One actor said that when you have a Chazz Palminteri on the set, it’s like the equivalent of a young player being on the field with Mickey Mantle.

I personally have spent as much time in the world of entertainment as I have in the sports world. I can honestly say that of all the actors and entertainers that I have known, I have never met a bigger Yankees fan than Chazz Palminteri.

Having Chazz in this commercial for YES was genius casting and what ever they paid him was worth every penny.

There was no wasted talent in this Bronx Tale for YES!

Negron: Bernie’s Life After Baseball

Last night I got to go to the Murray Theatre at Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater, Florida. The main attraction was former Yankees’ superstar Bernie Williams.

Every seat was filled with baseball fans and music lovers. Among those in the audience were some of his former teammates like David Cone, David Wells and Tino Martinez. Also on hand were Yankee icons Willie Randolph and Mr. October himself, Reggie Jackson.

When Bernie walked on stage, the feeling was like being at the first game of a World Series. It was as if Bernie went up to the batter’s box with his bat, then turned to the umpire and called time. He asked for the batboy, handed him his bat and the batboy then handed Bernie his guitar. At that moment Bernie proceeded to hit it out of the park.

Song after song from Bernie’s magic fingers just mesmerized everyone in the audience. The usually quiet Willie Randolph acted like a “teeny bopper” at a Beatles concert. Willie could not hold back his emotions because like everyone in the audience, the music just ran through your soul.

I have seen Bernie perform before but there just was something very magical about last night. After the show I asked Bernie if there was a difference in the emotional preparation for this show as compared to that of a World Series game and Bernie said that it was pretty much the same. He also said that just like baseball, he practices with the guitar every day.

The elegant living room setting of the Murray Theatre made it that much more magical. It made the audience feel like they were a part of the band. With that type of setting, Bernie made you feel like he was performing just for you.

The true home run in the show was when Bernie was brought back for a curtain call and he performed “Take Me Out To The Ball Game” like I have never heard it before. It literally brought the capacity crowd to its feet.

Reggie Jackson is a man that I have big time respect for.  He is also a person that knows his music. He is also the most brutally honest person that I know. With that being said I went over to him and asked him for his review of Bernie. Mr October had one word. GREAT!!!

Negron: Yanks Read The Future

Earlier this week we had batting practice rained out. A couple of days before we actually had a game rained out. When this happens it gives the players a little extra time to rest but knowing our Yanks, they would rather be playing.

The thing that really bothered me is when I walked around the ball park I see some very sad faces. I actually saw one kid crying and I asked his dad what was wrong and he said that because batting practice was canceled his son would not see Aaron Judge take batting practice.

At that point I decided to go to the trunk of my car and get some of my children’s books and give them out to some of these sad kids and try to put a smile on their faces. With the permission of the Yankees I even got to take a couple of them around the ball park to meet some of the players and they even got to read one of the books with Gleyber Torres.

The Yanks explained to the kids that it was important to put as much emphasis on reading as they do on their video games. Dellin Betances even kidded with little Michael from New York that someday he might throw 100 miles per hour also. Nick from Ghana was ecstatic when Aroldis Chapman gave him a hug.

Overall it made me feel so proud to be a part of the Yankees and see that the players really do care about the fans and especially the young ones. However Gleyber would say it best when I thanked him for taking a few minutes with the sad children that he was able to put a smile on their faces. He said kids are people too. They are our future.

That’s coming from the future of the Yankees.

Negron: Ottavino is a Lion on the Mound and a Pussycat with the Kids

Adam Ottavino has made an early impression by mowing down all the hitters that he’s faced in spring training so far. The Brooklyn born Ottavino walks on the field with this quiet confidence that says “give me the ball.” One of the newest Yankee relievers has stirred this strong excitement with the fans at the park and I continue to hear many of them ask, “Is Ottavino throwing today.”

In one breath I see a guy that’s ready to come into a game like Sparky Lyle or Mariano Rivera and just put everyone away. Later that evening, I see a very nice gentleman that enjoys his time with a bunch of kids that live in some of the best and worst areas of New York and Connecticut. We all shared a wonderful dinner together and told some very cool stories. The kids felt like they were a part of the Yankees because of the way Ottavino treated them. Whether he realized it or not, he really helped lift their self esteem and made them feel good about themselves.

Being a major leaguer is a great honor, however being a Yankee is the highest honor that a big league player can achieve.

I remember Hall of Famer Roberto Alomar once telling Yankee owner George Steinbrenner that his only regret during his wonderful big league career was the fact that he never got to play for the Yankees. That being said, Ottavino is now a “Superman” to these kids and to kids all over the Yankee Universe. I’m really happy that I got to have dinner with Ottavino and all these kids because it showed me that the Yankees got themselves a terrific pitcher and a very fine young man while New York kids got themselves someone that they can really look up to.

Negron: Young Yankee Acts Like A Role Model

Gleyber Torres has picked up where he left off this past Christmas.

During the holidays Torres arranged for hundreds of kids, that he didn’t even know, to get Christmas gifts. Today he was sharing himself and his heart with kids that need it the most. He spent his afternoon with kids from New York who usually would not have had an opportunity to meet their idols and get to sit with them and find out that they are regular people too. That was the message that Gleyber Torres gave to all of these wide eyed kids.

Gleyber’s message was very simple. Respect your parents, respect your family and coaches and do not be afraid to follow your dreams. Gleyber explained that to achieve goals in life you must be willing to sacrifice. He also told them that school and baseball go hand in hand. As much as you give the game of baseball you must also give to your education. He explained that he would not be where he is today without the love and support of his parents. Gleyber told the kids that his parents had to make a number of sacrifices for the success that he has achieved today.

Gleyber was very positive with the kids and showed them proper fielding techniques. Of course there were plenty of photos and autographs. As much as the kids loved this great opportunity, I think the parents loved it more because of the beautiful and positive message that Mr. Torres delivered. The best moment for me was when this little boy just kept staring at Gleyber. I asked him why he kept his eye on Torres and he said because I never thought I would ever meet a Yankee. “From the mouth of babes.”

Thank you Gleyber and the Yankees for always being there for the little guy.

Negron: Number 66, Not A Bad Number

I have always had a fascination with the true “rags to riches” stories of life. Stories of men and women who understood that a part of what they were accomplishing, they would also share with the world. In my life the names that stood out were Babe Ruth, Jackie Robinson and Roberto Clemente. In the world of entertainment it was Elvis and Sinatra, Jose Feliciano and Frankie Valli for me.

To me, baseball and the arts walked hand in hand. I used to say that if I couldn’t be a baseball player that I wanted to be a movie actor.

On August 16th, 1977, Elvis Presley died. I will never forget how sad I was that day because I was such a big fan. I was sitting behind Reggie Jackson’s desk answering some of his fan mail when Reggie walked into the room to see if there were any important letters in the bunch. He noticed that I was unusually quiet that day so he asked what was wrong. I mentioned that Elvis had died and how I was such a fan. I remember talking about the reasons that I liked Elvis, including the fact that he was very close to people that he did not even know, and how every time he did a movie he included his friends in the film.

I remember how Reggie really paid attention to what I was saying. I did think that he was trying to be a soundboard for me. Well, that winter I got the biggest surprise from “Mr October.” He called me up one day and said how would you like to be in my Volkswagen commercial. I think I screamed out the biggest ‘Hell Yeah’ ever.

One commercial led to another and another. I did spots for products such as “Old Spice” and “Panasonic.” I also noticed how smooth Reggie was in delivering his lines. He was a natural. I learned just as much from him as an actor as I did from him in baseball.

One day, I got a call from Warner Brothers to see if I would like to test for a film called “Blue Skies Again.” I would be working with two up and coming actors named Joey Gian (Who would go on to fame on “Knots Landing”) and Andy Garcia (Academy Award nominee). Would you believe that I got the part of Jerry Washburn, a rookie baseball player. We shot the movie in Ft. Lauderdale and Miami. The Casting Director was a lady named Dee Miller and the Director was Richard Michaels, who directed the television series “Bewitched.”

On the set I was pretty popular because the Yankees had just been World Champions and everyone knew that I worked for the team. The one thing that really stood out for me during the early days of the filming was when we had to go to wardrobe to check on our uniforms. I remember being a little disappointed because my uniform number was 66. I wanted a sexier number. Like one or four.

I remember Andy thinking to himself then asking me, ‘What number did Jackie Robinson wear’? I said, ‘forty two!’ Then he said ‘and Roberto Clemente?’I said ‘twenty one!’ Andy said, ‘and Babe Ruth, and I said…..’3.’ Andy said when you put it all together it equals to 66. Andy, Joey and me laughed like crazy because it was a positive sign that I fell in love with the number.

With all the crazy, mystical, very sad, yet incredibly wonderful moments that I have gone through, I remember going to George Steinbrenner in 2006 after one of my books became a best seller and thanking him for saving my life. He looked me in the eyes and said, ‘I didn’t save your life. Your story was already told, I was just doing what I was supposed to do.’

Then he smiled and told me to get out of there.

Today, we celebrate the 100th anniversary of the birth of Jackie Robinson. The book that I was talking about with Mr. Steinbrenner was called “The Greatest Story NEVER Told.” The book is about the Babe and Jackie. It also introduces a young Roberto Clemente. It’s the story of love of faith and hope.

I dedicate this column to some of my heroes of life. Men like Jackie, The Babe ,The Boss, Roberto, Feliciano, Elvis, Mr. Sinatra, Frankie Valli, Chazz, Murcer, Billy, Thurman and of course Mr. October.

Negron: Yankee Loyalty and Support Keep Scouts Strong

Many years ago, George Steinbrenner told me that the key to winning championships was to have great scouts out in the field amassing the best information possible.

In the 1970s, he was armed with the best scouts in the game. That roster included Gary Walker and the great Birdie Tibbetts. It’s no coincidence that the Yanks signed so many great free agents and in turn won three AL Pennants and two World Championships. They also had terrific scouts at the amateur levels. Scouts that were very proud of working for the Yanks and in turn were always looking for that diamond in the rough. The brilliant skills of these scouts helped the Yanks get some terrific talent, despite the fact they were winning and weren’t getting high draft picks.

Forty years later, the quality of scouting in the organization, from the Major League level to the amateur ranks, has only gotten better. The pride that these scouts exemplify, even today, is remarkable because of how proud they are in being associated with the Yankees. They come across much different than scouts in other organizations. There is just a special attitude that they seem to inherit.

Two of those prideful people are veteran scout Cesar Presbott and the Yankees’ first female scout, Kelley Rodman. Both of these scouts truly do understand the importance of their jobs. They get up every morning and can’t wait to see who they might find that day. They are not afraid to follow a hunch. They are also not afraid to show people, especially kids, that they also have a heart and not everything is so matter of fact.

They’re not not afraid to give a kid with a dream, some hope. Sometimes maybe more than warranted. Sometimes they’re even willing to throw some batting practice or hit some ground balls after their coaches have gone home, because they see something that their coach may not have and they don’t want to step on the coach’s toes.

Baseball needs more people like Cesar and Kelley in this great game. We have good people in the game, however the great ones are far and few between.

This weekend MLB scouting was honoring me for my community service in baseball however I felt that the ones that needed to be honored was Cesar and Kelley. In the last year, Kelley was diagnosed with cancer and has lost her beautiful hair, yet she came to the ceremony and stood there with the pride of a champion and a true Yankee.

Cesar was dealing with a heart ailment a month ago and all he could think about, while in the hospital, was how long before I can get back on the field to do my job.

That’s the Yankee way!

While giving my speech, I said that I was more proud of the Yankees now, than at any time in my long association with the organization. When Cesar was down and hurting he got calls from team officials Damon Oppenheimer and Matt Hyde. Both men let Cesar know that he had nothing to worry about. They told him to just get healthy so that ‘you can get back in the field doing what you do best.’ I also understand that they have shown the same wonderful respect and support to Kelley.

I think the Boss would be very proud because this has always been the “Steinbrenner-Yankee way.”

NY Sportsday’s Ray Negron To Be Honored by NY Professional Baseball Scouts

NY Sportsday.com and Newsmax columnist Ray Negron is about to add another honor to his fabulous career that began in baseball as a result of a fateful meeting that took place over 45 years ago.

The Award winning author, playwright and film producer who started his career in the early 1970’s, will be honored with an award at the NY Professional Baseball Scouts Dinner on Friday, January 25th, at Leonard’s in Long Island, NY.

Ray’s story is one of legend. As a 16-year old, he was caught spraying graffiti on a Yankee Stadium wall by George Steinbrenner. The Boss did not turn him into the police, instead, Negron got a job as a Yankee bat boy and the rest is history.

Negron is a member of the International Latino Hall of Fame and the Ted Williams Hall of Fame for his humanitarian efforts with children around the country. Ray has earned great respect for his leadership in the Latino community.

At present, Negron remains close to the Steinbrenner family and is the Yankees Community Affairs Consultant where he helps inspire those in need by encouraging Yankee players to do the same.

Negron is very appreciative of where he came from and his proud Latin heritage. With Martin Luther King Jr’s birthday approaching, Ray wanted to offer this message of appreciation.

“One former President, one very powerful journalist and one of the richest men in the world with one ordinary, simple Latin American guy from the Bronx. Only in America could this happen. Let’s appreciate this great country. Thanks Mr. Clinton. Mr. O’Reilly. Mr. Forbes for sharing a laugh and treating me as an equal.

Monday we celebrate Martin Luther King’s birthday and I would like to think that he would have been proud of these gentlemen for accepting me, the guy from the Bronx.

In 1974, when I was going through my own insecurities, George Steinbrenner told me that this day would come and I would be able to walk with my head held high and that I would be accepted anywhere and everywhere. Three years later, Billy Martin would validate that when he took me to have dinner with Sammy Davis Jr and the Chairman of the Board, Frank Sinatra, at the famous Italian restaurant, Patsy’s, on 56th and Broadway. Sammy and Mr. Sinatra could not have been nicer.

Forty years later I still go to Patsy’s because of the great food and the fact that I can still reminisce about coming of age with Sal and Joe Scognamillo, the owners and my friends who treat me like family. If you go up to the second floor of the restaurant you can see a portrait of Sinatra, Sammy, Billy Martin, Joe the owner and yes, yours truly.

I would like to think that, on what would have been Martin Luther King’s 90th birthday, he would have looked at the portrait and smiled with approval.”

“We have Overcome, Thank you Mr. King.”

The NY Professional Baseball Scouts Dinner will take place at Leonard’s of Great Neck, Long Island on Friday, January 25th. Tickets are available. For more information, contact Billy Blitzer at bbscout1@aol.com.

Negron: This Doc Has a Broken Heart

Like everyone else in the baseball community I was saddened by the terrible news of Yankee pitching great and outstanding pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre’s passing.

I first met Mel in 1973 during my first season as a Yankee batboy. It was my first day in that crazy clubhouse and I couldn’t help but notice that Mel acted more like a young college professor instead of a “Bronx Zoo” Yankee. He was just a very nice guy. The other thing that I noticed was how everyone gravitated to him.

What stood out to me about Mel was how prepared he was before every game. He was one of the coolest customers I have ever seen play in NY. Mel truly personified what a New York Yankee baseball player was at that time along with Bobby Murcer, Thurman Munson and Roy White. Those guys gave us fans hope. They also made the Yankees fun during a tough, non-winning period in Yankee history. When Mel’s baseball career came to a screeching halt because of a rotator cuff injury in 1974, he would become one of baseball’s all time great pitching coaches, first for the Mets and later the Yankees.

While with the Mets he would tutor one of baseball’s great pitching staffs. During his tenure there he would have the opportunity to work with one of baseball’s all time great phenoms, Dwight “Doc” Gooden.

Mel would become a second father to this very impressionable young man. The trust that they would develop for each other probably saved Gooden in more ways then one. Mel would work for other teams including the Houston Astros. When George Steinbrenner signed Gooden in the winter of 1995 he asked Doc if he were to pick his own pitching coach who would that be and Doc said with no hesitation “Mel Stottlemyre.” At that moment, the Boss told Arthur Richman, his head of Public Relations at the time, to call Mel. The rest is history. It’s no coincidence that Gooden was able to rebound as beautifully as he did in that 1996 season, that included a no hitter at Yankee Stadium against Alex Rodriguez and the Seattle Mariners.

Today I called Doc, who was at Mets’ fantasy camp, and when he answered the phone he was crying. He said that there aren’t words to say how he feels. He said the last time he cried like this was when his mom died and before that it was in 2010 when George Steinbrenner died. Speaking through his tears, Gooden noted how good it was that Hal Steinbrenner and the Steinbrenner family honored Mel at Yankee Stadium in 2015. It was probably the last true highlight of Mel’s life.

The Boss and Mel were my baseball fathers. Like your real parents, you just can’t replace these people because of the intense emotions that you go through with them while working in a very intense and demanding business in this extremely crazy world that we live in.

Dwight Gooden is very lucky because, during his worst moments, his baseball fathers showed him more love then anyone in his situation would’ve gotten from anybody else. People like Mel Stottlemyre are not that common in the business of baseball.

Like Doc Gooden there are a lot of former players with broken hearts tonight. Players that, at one time or another, were touched by the kindness and generosity of Mel Stottlemyre. Just ask “Dr. K,” Dwight ‘Doc’ Gooden if you don’t believe me.

Doc Gooden makes a house call to visit BATBOY

As the “BATBOY” producer for its first four productions in 2018, I couldn’t help but notice the excitement and anticipation from the folks that were lined up outside the heralded Brokerage Comedy Club in Bellmore, Long Island. It was Sunday, January 6th, and it was the 2019 debut and fifth show featuring New York Baseball Legend Dwight “Doc” Gooden.

“Doc’s” house call, along with the amazing performances from its actors and musicians at this most recent event, occurred before a sold-out, standing room only crowd where fans had to be turned away at the door, was utterly spectacular. The energy in the crowd was electric as they waited patiently for the doors to open. Unfortunately not everyone was able to experience it. This development created sincere regret for the “BATBOY” himself. “To have people turned away at the door on a wintry Sunday night is highly upsetting to me. I wish they could have been there for the show,” Ray Negron said. Without prompting from this writer, Negron went on to mention, “however, to see all the seats filled with others standing throughout the wings of this historic comedic establishment was an incredible sight to see. This is a venue which has featured comedians such as Eddie Murphy, Andrew “Dice” Clay, Artie Lange and Kevin James, now “BATBOY” and Dwight Gooden…………………….well, it doesn’t get better than that.”

Similar to past shows, this performance featured incredible talent from its own actors/actresses. From musical legend Pepe Cardona from “Alive N’ Kickin” to the sultry sound of “DIVANATION” to the operatic voice of Adam Unger (who played Bobby Murcer), to the candid, intimate conversation between Ray Negron, Larry Davis and Dwight Gooden on center stage immediately following the “BATBOY” performance/showcase offered a wide ranging variety of talented performers.

Negron was proud to be a part of this memorable evening. “This was a showcase for our extremely talented cast and performers,” Negron said. “We wanted them to demonstrate their God-given gifts to the folks that were in the audience such as Ken Decamillo (William Morris Agency), Joey Dedio (Film Producer) and Gene Gagliardi (Music Producer).” “This showcase was a chance to begin working out some of its kinks before our production embarks on its 2019 tour highlighted by the return to the Tilles Center on May 22nd.”

Making his Musical “BATBOY” debut was singer/songwriter Alex Martin whose rendition of Michael Jackson’s “Man in the Mirror” brought the crowd to its feet as well as Cardona’s original ode to Thurman Munson called “Won’t Be the Same Without You.”

Cardona shared his thoughts about the reception of the audience after he and his son, Timothy Cardona, performed this emotionally charged song which reminds us all that it will be 40 years since the Yankee Captain passed away in a fiery plane crash on August 2, 1979. “Seeing the crowd’s reaction standing and applauding with tears in their eyes brought tears to my eyes. That’s what the song is all about….remembering Thurman. Thurman brought people together on and off the field. This show highlights his love affair with his wife Diana Munson (played by GiGi Cormio).” Cardona added,” Frankly I was floored and very touched by the reaction. I had their full attention and they were able to hear the words and appreciate them. I can see us doing that at the stadium you know?”

Other “BATBOY” mainstays Martin Knapp (Billy Martin), Terrell Carpenter (Reggie Jackson), Luis Castillo (Edwin), Carmine Elvezio (Little Ray), Charlie Santora (Yogi Berra), Shane Springer (Roy White), Theresa Farrell (Olga), Aris Sakellaridis (Sparky Lyle), Steve Vaccaro (Marshmallow Salesman), Lisa Coppola (Salesman’s Girlfriend) were spot on.

Newcomer and established actor Bryan Dromerhauser, who played a sinister gang member, gave the crowd a dramatic performance recreating a gang scene that Negron horrifically experienced when he was 17 years old. . However, it was Dwight Gooden’s appearance that brought “heat” to the raucous atmosphere just like one of his powerful fastballs. As highlights of his May 14, 1996 No-Hitter at Yankee Stadium were being played on the big screen for all to see, Ray Negron introduced Dr. K. to join him up on the stage. As he approached the stage, the entire sold out crowd stood up and cheered for their hero. It was reminiscent of sitting in the left field “K” corner at Shea Stadium standing up applauding after every strikeout and posting a”K” on the railing.

“WOW, what a great feeling,” Doc said. You guys are great (referring to the audience). It is always nice to return home,” Gooden announced. He then began rhythmically clapping to the crowd cheering, “Dwight, Dwight, Dwight.” The relationship that Doc has with New York is amazing. After 16 years of playing major league baseball and being inducted into the Mets’ Hall of Fame in 2010, his relationship with New Yorkers will remain lovingly secured forever.
Receiving the 1984 rookie of the year award and 1985 Cy Young award were not even discussed on this special night. Both Ray Negron and Larry Davis asked some very personal, fun-loving questions that Doc answered candidly as they reflected on some funny times. This empowered the audience to ask their own questions as well.

There was a moment during the Q & A that Gooden talked about “battling addiction demons.” He then leaned over, as he was sitting on a stool center stage, to make eye contact with Negron, who was to his left. Gooden emphatically and gracefully stated, “I want you all in the audience to know that Ray Negron saved my life. He was always there for me. Protecting me and always looking out for me. I will never forget those times until the day I die.” There was not a dry eye in the house, including Negron. Both men got up and hugged each other in loving support. The crowd began to humbly applaud with sincere, heartfelt emotion. Gooden then faced the crowd and revealed his love, gratitude and appreciation for the late, great George Steinbrenner. The audience stood in silence feeling the seemingly pure affection Gooden had with the Boss.

Yes, the Doc made a house call on this cold night in Long Island to share his love, gratitude and lifelong appreciation to the “BATBOY.” Maybe, just maybe, Doc may appear at other “BATBOY” performances in New York or in the Tampa area. However, for now, Gooden is off to Mets’ Fantasy camp in Florida and the “BATBOY” will be doing the same at Yankee Fantasy Camp. Pitchers and catchers report in only 25 days…….. PLAY BALL!!!!!